Bishop Frederick Williams fighting economic segregation

Frederick Williams

Jim Crow Laws segregated whites and blacks in separate schools, separate bathrooms, and drinking from separate water fountains for 89 years. The "separate but equal" philosophy was officially outlawed in 1965. But desegregating some parts of the country has been slow and Albany is a prime example.

"There's the East Albany area where there's not as many great employment prospects," said Economics Professor Aaron Johnson. "You look at the school districts, they're under-funded."

It's a struggle that led even the most famous civil rights leader to throw up his hands. "Albany was one of the places that Dr. King thought he failed in, simply because of the hard-pressed in this area," said Bishop Frederick Williams.

But Martin Luther King, Jr.'s frustration with the good life city hasn't stopped Williams of Gethsemane Worship Center. "Gethsemane was berthed 18, 19 years ago and Gethsemane is just a non-traditional church," said Williams.

Williams describes his work at the church as "arms to the community."

"Albany has always been a city divided by religion and race," said Williams. "We're working on racial reconciliation at this time so we're connecting with a lot of prominent other ethnical groups."

He is deeply troubled by the effects of poverty and the cycle of violence it creates among young people. He says he's seen too many young African-Americans trapped in neighborhoods where crime is high and employment is low. They're never taught the importance of education or a good work ethic and often turn to a life of crime.

"When you've dealt with areas of high poverty, you haven't had that background as far as how to build wealth, how to manage your money," said Johnson. "A lot of times, you're thinking day-to-day."

"Let's reach out to those young men who are so angry about so many things such as unemployment, opportunities, bad parenting," added Williams.

Williams personally felt the impact of that anger in December of 2009. His sister was murdered in her home by a home invasion. His sister's death prompted Williams to create Stop the Violence, a pro-youth partnership between law enforcement and community leaders to provide positive alternatives to the criminal lifestyle.

"Mentorship. Health and wellness. Opportunity. Educational and entrepreneurship. Nobody's going in these streets and working. We're going into those houses," said Williams.

Bringing the people of Albany together hasn't been easy.

"We're meeting a lot of resistance and I can't say that it's from the whites or the blacks," said Williams. "It's from both."

But he's starting to see progress. "We've got stacks of letters in there," said Williams. "They're not coming from the parents. They're coming from the children."